Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vampire Weekend - Contra (XL Recordings 2010)

Ever listened to "Graceland" by Paul Simon? Well, if not, he took a bunch of musicians from Africa and made a pop world beat record. People went nuts for it. It shipped gold and was Paul Simon's most successful record in years. The fact that Peter Gabriel had already done this and even started his own record label, which he operated at a loss, to record and distribute the artists who had helped him out when he made his own Afro-pop album seemed entirely overlooked by all but a few, myself and my sanctimonious friends among them.

What does this have to do with Vampire Weekend's latest release?

Imagine Paul Simon making "Graceland" but having to substitute samples, electronic rhythms, and poorly layered production to make up for the fact that he didn't have some 150 actual African musicians and vocalists to back him up. Imagine that he also didn't have 30 years of experience writing pop songs. Well, there you have "Contra" by NYC foursome Vampire Weekend.

Many might admire their chutzpah and ambition in attempting to recreate this blend of Afro-beat and Western pop, and I sure do. Unfortunately, they have neither the experience nor the resources to pull it off. The record sounds weak, thin, WAY too electronic, and primary vocalist Ezra Koenig tries WAY too hard to sound EXACTLY like Paul Simon.

I didn't like "Graceland" with the stunning, orchestral production and the real Paul Simon at the helm, but I admired him for doing it (even though Peter Gabriel did it first), and I don't like "Contra" with its (deliberately?) poor production and a Paul Simon wannabe at the helm.

People love this band. I do admire what they're trying to do. I just wish they were better at it. Maybe someday.

1 out of 4 vampires

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To me it was like trying to watch Lord of the Rings. I asked the wifey "are they going to talk like this the whole time?" and that was enough for me to quit while I was ahead. I listened to one song but couldn't see sitting through the whole LP.

Plus, Horchata is pretty rank.